Healthy churches are part of the solution, Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press in comments following a California Supreme Court decision to deny a petition to enforce Proposition 8, the voter-approved constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman.
The issuing of gay marriage licenses is among several controversial social changes in California, from passing a transgender restroom bill to banning conversion therapy for those with same-sex attractions.
"The challenges in California to biblical values are the vanguard of what is coming to the rest of the nation," Iorg said. "Ground we lose here will soon be lost everywhere."
Every step away from biblical values weakens the nation, Iorg said.
"In California, we are already overwhelmed with the results of these choices: rising alcohol and drug abuse, overcrowded prison system, social service organizations scrambling to help distressed persons, etc.," Iorg said.
Amid the downward spiral, "the most hopeful signs are the rising tide of church planting and growing concern for pastors to revitalize existing churches through biblical preaching and teaching," Iorg said.
The California Supreme Court, in a brief, unanimous ruling Aug. 14, did not address the constitutionality of Proposition 8 and left supporters of traditional marriage few legal options in defending the initiative approved by 7 million California voters in 2008.
Austin Nimocks of Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal group that filed the petition along with ProtectMarriage.com, said elected officials should enforce the law.
"Though the current California officials are unwilling to enforce the state constitution, we remain hopeful that one day Californians will elect officials who will," Nimocks said in a written statement.
Nimocks maintains that Proposition 8 is still the law of the land in California despite public officials who refuse to enforce it and have proceeded with issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The court's decision, he said, "does not end the debate about marriage in California."
Andy Pugno of ProtectMarriage.com said the decision "leaves grave doubts about the future of the initiative process" in California.
"Now voters will be less confident than ever that their votes will mean something," Pugno said. "When politicians disregard the law, and the courts refuse to get involved, what are we left with?"
Ron Prentice of the California Family Council said, "Homosexual marriage is now being allowed in California precisely because California's governor and attorney general were unwilling to defend the will of the people and our state's constitution.
"The Supreme Courts of California and the United States have also neglected their duties to protect the authority of law and the people's right to direct democracy through the initiative process," Prentice said.
"This decision marks an extreme period of lawlessness that can only be countered by a response from voters, to take from office those whose ideological agendas deny the existence of moral absolutes, and who aggressively seek to destroy the liberties of conscience and religious faith," Prentice said.
Proposition 8 supporters point out that when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that ProtectMarriage.com did not have legal standing to appeal a U.S. district judge's opinion striking down the amendment, the nation's high court did not rule on Proposition 8's constitutionality.
The district court order did not apply statewide, ADF said, meaning that no qualified body has yet ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional. California's governor, attorney general and other officials, therefore, lacked proper authority when they instructed counties to begin issuing marriage licenses in conflict with Proposition 8.
"Article III, section 3.5 of the California Constitution prohibits government agencies and officials from declaring state law unenforceable, or declining to enforce state law, on the basis that the law is unconstitutional, unless an appellate court has first made that determination," ADF said.
Among other controversial social changes in California recently, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law Aug. 12 giving transgender K-12 students the right "to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities" based on their perception of their gender regardless of biology.
Last year Brown signed a bill banning efforts by therapists to help teenagers overcome same-sex attractions. The law was put on hold by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals pending a resolution on its constitutionality.
Earlier this year, a bill was introduced in the California Senate that would penalize youth organizations, including the Boy Scouts, that discriminate on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. Such organizations could lose their tax-exempt status.
Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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